Tanz im August in Berlin
With 19 World-Wide Dance Companies
By: Angelika Jansen - Sep 02, 2023
Tanz im August 2023 ~ Presented by Hebbel am Ufer
August 2023 has come and gone. With it Tanz im August, the Berlin showcase for contemporary international dance. Organized, as usually, by the theater Hebbel am Ufer (HAU), it presented nineteen international dance companies in venues throughout the city. This, the 35th international dance festival kept Berlin's comtemporary dance aficionados racing to the shows from the 9th-26th of August. The theaters were packed and the crowds enthusiastic. Ricardo Carmona, for the next two years the new artistic director, can be proud.
Cameron selected works from new (for Berlin) as well as very new Gesamtkunstwerke. Thus, in most of the performances dance movements were used sparingly. The impact relied heavily on the moving powers of larger groups on stage, conveying messages reinforced by musical proclamations and stage settings. Not always did it work. Due to the use of foreign languages without translations, the messages were often lost and the audience was left with the visual and tonal impact – most of the time a quite satisfying solution. It worked for US choreographer Trajal Harrell's The Romeo created for a twelve member dance group from Schauspielhaus Zürich Dance Ensemble. Here the device of dancing through the times to defeat death and impermanence is used. All is enforced by slow movements of the dancers, walkings as in a fashion show. For Harrell slowness seems to hold the answer for survival of our human species.
Along the same idea of survival when united, but presented with high intensity, is the show of thirteen dancers by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker/Rosas Exit Above after the Tempest It is a fabulous Dutch/Belgian ensemble work, based on the tension arising from stops of the entire group otherwise marching in sync with an occasional break-away of single dancers. At the end the audience is almost as exhausted from viewing the whirlwind action on stage as the dancers doing the work.
Actions culminating in exhaustion and trance, pointing to a transcendental world, that is the message of eight dancers of Hmadcha created by the Moroccan choreographer Taoufiq Izeddiou. Again, movement beyond the seemingly possible keeps the audience stunned.
Another stunning performance is created by Cherish Menzo's DarkMatter. Three dancers, including Menzo herself, dance against earthly restrictions by freeing people through the use of dark matter. Due to astronomical theories used by Menzo in this work, it covers 85 percent of the universe. All this information is conveyed in the piece but does not quite reach the audience. What remains is a great theatrical work with stunning imagery of dark fluids poured all over the stage and the dancers reveling in it. All is supported by the sound track of an African rap choir.
Many of the works presented are surprisingly forceful. There is Nadia Beugr's Prophtique where six dancers shine spotlights on people pushed to the margins of society. Spotlighted are the large transgender communities on the Ivory Coast. Dances are quite sexually explicit and showcase ordinary people who change at night into dance divas.
Loneliness is the theme in Ginevra Panzetti's and Enrico Ticconi's Insel where two couples slowly find a way to reach out to each other on a deserted island. This work by the Italian choreographers opened the festival. Towards the end of the festival, Marlene Monteiro Freitas from Portugal surprises with MAL – Embriaguez Divina. Nine dancers deal with the bad in people by dancing, singing and acting out. It turns into a spectacle of pushing out the bad by creating an almost dionysian ecstasy of dance movements and theater actions.
Surprising productions going far beyond dance seem to be the creative thread of this festival. Exceptional in scope and activities on stage is the production of the Ballet national de Marseilles with (LA) HORDE Age of Content. The stage setting, including a moving car and mobile stairs support the fast paced movements of the eight to, sometimes, eighteen dancers on stage. It is a gigantic undertaking, using all possibilities of stage expressions in a wildly fast paced action, dance is only one of them.
Much more subdued but also change-driven is Kat Valastur's Strong-Born. Three female dancers recreate the idea of Iphigenia, the literal translation of the name. They use wooden parts attached to their bodies to create a spiritual ritual that retells the sacrifice of Iphigenia in Aulis. Here the story culminates into a rebellious but slow-moving resistance.
It was a strong festival, fast-paced and expressive. Single performances were only seen with the Yasmeen Godder Company and her creation in Practicing Empathy # 3 where she danced and expounded her sorrows for loosing empathy throughout the world. All in the messages showed resistance to bad developments the world over - and the commitment to fight on.
Let us see what Ricardo Carmona will select for August 2024.